A packed hall at Suffolk New Academy tonight heard presentations from both Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) and Stop Ipswich Turbines (SIT) before half an hour of questions from South West Ipswich residents.
Chairman Cllr Peter Gardiner, wearing a roving microphone more reminiscent of a pop concert, was commanding in a difficult role of controlling a meeting that, under different chairmanship, could have rapidly gotten out of hand.
The meeting of the South West Area Committee of Ipswich Borough Council was not a “public meeting” but an official committee meeting of the Borough Council. But when the Chairman called on councillors to introduce themselves, it started off sounding a little bit like the introduction of a game show. Three of the fifteen Labour councillors actually live in the area, and after criticism that the wind turbines were being imposed by councillors from the other side of town, they wanted to make clear that they lived within the area most badly affected.
Peter Evans, the Co-Chairman of Action Group SIT, told the meeting of the damage wind turbines would do to the lives of those living within the affected area, which SIT estimates is up to 2km. He pointed out that many countries do not allow these turbines to be built within 2km of people’s homes, even in Scotland this is an advisory limit. He raised the spectre of “flicker” which has risks for those who suffer from epilepsy, migraines and even for the general public. And he explained why the noise issue was not one that should be ignored, detailing how the turbines will be more disturbing than the A14.
Susanna Miller, spokeswoman for PfR, responded, explaining to the meeting that PfR were developing their plans for a maximum of two wind turbines for the site. The design was being finalised and PfR hope to hold further consultation events before making an application to Babergh District Council. She told the meeting that the worst consequences of flicker can be mitigated during the design process and that the turbines could well be much quieter than residents expect during normal operation.
The exact location of the turbines within the site has not yet been determined, but PfR committed to informing those residents who were likely to be directly affected by the issue of flicker once they have determined which properties these will be, and advising which mitigating factors are likely to be introduced for them. PfR expect a planning application to be submitted to Babergh DC in the Spring of 2013, and an Environmental Impact Assessment will be published at the same time.
A range of questions were raised by members of the public, although there was some controversy after question time when two residents in particular, Ipswich Spy’s Sally Wainman and A Riverside View’s Kevin Algar, weren’t called by the Chairman to ask questions since they weren’t residents who would be directly affected by the wind turbines. Public question time for the South West Area Committee should be open to all residents of Ipswich, regardless of where they live.
A huge round of applause greeted a concise statement from a local resident about the paucity of any consultation before the lease was signed, which led to some criticism of the Tory/Lib Dem administration by Labour Council Leader David Ellesmere. The Borough Council’s executive authorised the Head of Environmental Services to negotiate and sign a lease, in consultation with the Portfolio Holders for Finance and Environment, as well as the Head of Planning, Transport and Regeneration Services, Head of finance and Head of Legal and Democratic Services. Yet no consultation was carried out with local residents before the signing of the lease. Unless residents had read the Executive Agenda – hardy bedtime reading for the most anorak-like of political commentators – they would have had little likelihood of knowing that the Borough intended to impose this on them.
Residents were horrified to hear that, just occasionally, wind turbines have been known to explode in high winds. The PfR people disclosed, in response to a direct question, that a turbine in Scotland had exploded but that the cause was as yet unestablished. They assured the meeting that this was a rare occurence and that failsafes exist to prevent it, but I doubt anyone was reassured.
The Chairman indicated that wind turbines would be on the agenda of future meetings, and turned to other business, causing an exodus of the public. Those who remained heard from Cllr Rudkin on the important subject of Public Open Spaces and a forthcoming consultation, then from the Police about a fall in crime figures.
One last note. Several members of the public openly wondered where the Member of Parliament, Ben Gummer, was. This is perhaps a little unfair, since he was in the House of Commons, where he was needed for a series of votes. Even Mr Gummer would struggle to be in two places at once. It would be nice, however, if he were to issue some sort of statement on his position about wind turbines though; the suspicion is that he is deliberately avoiding public meetings because he likes wind turbines and doesn’t want to put himself on the other side of the argument to a substantial number of voters. I doubt that is true. If there is one thing Mr Gummer isn’t afraid of, it’s an argument. He is, after all, a pro-European Tory. Even if he IS in favour of wind power, he has a duty to represent his constituents – especially if our Labour councillors want to sit on their hands or point fingers at the Tories.
So Mr Gummer, here’s a challenge. Tell us what YOU think about these wind turbines. Use your column in the Ipswich Star. Or send us a statement. We’ll put it up online. Your voters in South West Ipswich want to know where you stand.
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